All Harkness Stories


Jan Morris »   Sir Michael Atiyah »   Professor David Gordon Wilson »   Ian Hay Davison »   Bamber Gascoigne »   Dr William Plowden »   Tony Tanner »   Prof Robert Cassen »   Timothy Hornsby »   Sir Alan Bailey »   Baroness Patricia Hollis »   Roy Williams »  

 

Jan Morris (CFF 1953) , like many fellows of that era was already well travelled before the fellowship, having joined the army at 17 during WW2, followed by journalism as a foreign correspondent.  A clever and inspired reporter, Jan was initially based in Cairo for the Arab news agency. There was also a role with the Times, including accompanying the first successful ascent of Mount Everest and being the first to release the news of success using encoded messages.  Later with the Guardian she gained crucial evidence about French-Israeli collusion in the Suez crisis.  After 10 years in journalism Jan decided to focus on her writing and there followed a stream of successful books; poetry, history, place and city studies (often referred to as travel books), novels, memoirs, essays and biographies, over 40 in total.  She has received multiple awards for her writing, including a Lifetime Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing award in 2018; earlier winners were Michael Palin and Bill Bryson. However in an interview with BBC in 2016 she told fellow winner Michael Palin that she does not like to be described as a travel writer, as her books are not about movement and journeys; they are about places and people.  Jan was published under her birth name, James, until 1972, when she undertook sex reassignment after transitioning from living as male to living as female. Her book “Conundrum” is a frank and engaging description of this part of her life. Her most recent publication “In my Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary”, her first diary style writing, was published at the age of 90. A Welsh nationalist, she lives in North Wales with her lifelong partner and mother of her children, Elizabeth.  
Published on: 25th October 2018

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Sir Michael Atiyah (CFF 1955-56) OM, FRS, FRSE, FMedsci, FAA, FREng studied at Princeton, Institute of Advanced Study, for his fellowship to which he later returned as Professor for three years (69-72). His academic career started in Cambridge (student and early academia), transferring to Oxford for more senior and leadership roles. In 1990 Michael returned to Cambridge to create and direct the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (90-96) and is now at the University of Edinburgh, where he has been Honorary Professor since 1997. Collaboration with others, many of whom he met in his fellowship year at Princeton, has been key to his work; with Hirzebruch he laid the foundation of topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem is widely used in counting the number of independent solutions to differential equations. Later work was inspired by theoretical physics leading to improvements in quantum field theory. Used to travel from an early age, born in London to Lebanese and Scottish parents, educated in Sudan, Cairo, Alexandria, and Manchester, he has travelled extensively. He has been elected to Royal Society equivalent organisations in many countries including America, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, India and Russia. Awarded over 30 Honorary degrees, Michael has also won numerous awards for his work, including the Fields medal in 1966 (for his work in developing K theory) and the Abel prize, jointly with Singer in 2004. Michael held leadership roles in many organisations, including being President of the London Mathematical Society (74-76), President of the Royal Society (90-95), Master of Trinity College (90-97) and Chancellor of the University of Leicester (95-05). An impressive educator Michael is responsible for inspiring generations of young mathematicians, many becoming prize winners in their own right. Michael was destined to be a mathematician and quotes “I started out by changing local currency into foreign currency everywhere I travelled as a child and ended up making money. That’s when my father realised that I would be a mathematician some day.” Michael’s wife Lily, from Edinburgh, was with him from his CFF until she passed away at the age of 90 in March 2018. They had 3 sons.
Published on: 30th May 2018

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Professor David Gordon Wilson ((CFF 1955-57)) is emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and the author of recently published Born, Blessed & Blitzed in Britain, but Battered by M.I.T. The book reflects on an adventure filled life and outlines his battles with university bureaucracy, from his time as a young engineer who refused to alter test results and later as he called out senior academics for plagiarism. Born and educated in Warwickshire, England, Dave first crossed the Atlantic in 1953, working his way to Canada in the engine room of a cargo boat. In 1955 he was awarded a post-doctoral Commonwealth-Fund fellowship for study and research at MIT and Harvard. After working in the turbine industry in Britain he taught for two years in Nigeria and worked briefly with the VSO (the British precursor of the Peace Corps) in the Cameroons. Before coming to MIT he was technical director and vice president of NREC. At MIT, Dave has taught engineering design, including turbo-machinery design, and applied thermodynamics, and supervised research into power-and-propulsion topics and design areas. His turbine-design text was bought by GE for its jet-engine staff. Since retiring in 1994 he has been interim head of the Office of Minority Education and faculty director of the MITES program, and co-founded Wilson TurboPower in 2001. Dave, a keen hiker and bicyclist, who designed a bicycle that won world speed records, has authored/co-authored 9 books.
Published on: 19th January 2019

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Ian Hay Davison (CFF 1957-58) CBE FCA graduated from the LSE in 1953 and then qualified as a chartered accountant in 1956. Having taken third place in the national exam his former LSE tutor suggested he apply for a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship. Accompanied by his wife he set off for the University of Michigan. He was then 26 and took the prelims for a PhD in Accounting in the Business School in one year but never completed the thesis. This was followed by a two -month internship on computers on Wall Street and a wonderful three month tour of 40 of the then 48 States.  Returning to the UK in 1959 he joined the infant UK firm of Arthur Andersen rising to managing partner in 1966. In 1983 at the prompting of the Governor of the Bank of England he left AA and for the next 17 years became a financial services regulator. His roles included CEO of Lloyd’s of London, Chairman of the Securities Review Committee in Hong Kong, ExecuChairman of National Mortgage Bank (a failed bank being run down by the Bank of England) and Chairman of the Securities Regulator in Dubai.  He enjoyed other roles: a founding director of “the Independent”; Chairman of BHS, Habitat and Mothercare; Director of Cadbury Schweppes; Chairman of Sadler’s Wells and a director of the Royal Opera House. He retired in 2004 at the age of 73, but carried on as Chairman of Ruffer, the fund managers until 2011 when he was 80.
Published on: 6th December 2018

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Bamber Gascoigne (CFF 1958-59) FRSL is best known for his television role as chairman of University Challenge for twenty-five years (1962-1987). He can be thanked for introducing the following catchphrases into our daily language – “Your starter for ten” and “fingers on the buzzers”.  Bamber was a Commonwealth Fund Fellow in 1958 where he spent a year studying playwriting at Yale. He ‘had already written a revue (which ran for nine months in London’s West End) while a student of English Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and on his return he became a theatre critic. Bamber has also been the author and presenter of many documentary history series and has published many books. His Encyclopedia of Britain covers all the best-known aspects of British history and culture. For the last fifteen years he has been writing a history of the world on the internet, HistoryWorld (www.historyworld.net). Bamber has been a Trustee of the National Gallery, Trustee of the Tate Gallery, member of the Council of the National Trust, and a director of the Royal Opera House. He is a patron of the Museum of Richmond. In 2014 he inherited a large country house dating back to the 16th Century, West Horsley Place. Soon after he received a proposal from Grange Park Opera to build an opera house close to the garden. Bamber and his wife Christina established the Mary Roxburghe Trust to restore the house and involve the public in many different activities there. To fund this, they donated to the charity the estate and all its assets. Grange Park Opera, with their magical new opera house in the woods, opened and completed their first season in 2017 to critical acclaim.
Published on: 24th May 2018

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Dr William Plowden (CFF 1958-59) (d. 2010) saw his Commonwealth Fund Fellowship as liberating and transformative in the same way as reading history at Cambridge after two years National Service, or even more so. He spent it at the University of California Berkeley Institute of Political Science and Government, with Nelson Polsby. He shared a room, and indeed a car which meant they had the use of it for most of the year, with Tony Tanner (d.1998). Returning from his fellowship, William spent a year at The Economist before joining the Board of Trade where he was private secretary to Edward Heath. He left Whitehall to become a lecturer in the Government Department at LSE. While there he wrote his first book The Motor Car and Politics (1970). Invited by his former boss, now the PM, William became a founder member of the Central Policy Review Staff, CPRS, known as the Think Tank (1971 to 1977). After a brief spell as Under Secretary at the Department of Industry he headed the Royal Institute for Public Administration for 10 years from 1978. He was a visiting professor at LSE in the 1980s and again from 2002, a governor from 1992 and a member of the Council for several years. He was a member of the Harkness selection committee in the 1980s, and visited current fellows in their US placements, and as Director of the UK Harkness Fellowships in New York (1988-91) he led the redesign of the programme for the Commonwealth Fund, continuing to lead the programme back in the UK until 1998. He was a founder member of the HFA. For the rest of his working life, as a consultant to developing countries’ governments, William went on developing and disseminating his ideas about effective government originating in his Harkness Fellowship, as well as his life-long love of America.
Published on: 24th May 2018

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Tony Tanner (CFF 1958–60) (d 1998) had a career as an eminent scholar of American literature which was born during his time as a Harkness fellow. Having studied English at Jesus College Cambridge, in 1958 he won a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship to Berkeley, California where he first encountered post-war American literature and culture. In 1960, he returned with a passion for American Literature, unusual in the UK at the time, especially in academia. His doctoral dissertation on wonder and naiveté in American literature, later published as a book, became the first on an American subject to be accepted by the Cambridge English faculty. He was appointed a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, where he taught and studied for 38 years until his untimely death from cancer in 1998. Professor Tanner’s teachings on the topic helped persuade Cambridge university to offer a master’s degree in American literature, and in 1989, he was appointed to its first chair in American literature. He wrote a comprehensive study of contemporary American fiction from the period 1950-1970 in City of Words, published in 1971. Tanner briefly took up a position at Johns Hopkins University, but returned to Kings, preferring life at Cambridge. Tanner did not abandon UK and European literature, publishing about the work of literary figures such as Goethe, Flaubert, Rousseau, Henry James, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas Mann, John Ruskin and Marcel Proust. His final work was to write prefaces to each of Shakespeare’s plays for the new Everyman library. (Sources)
Published on: 24th May 2018

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Prof Robert Cassen (CFF 1959-61) OBE studied classics and philosophy at Oxford, and wanted to convert to economics – Harkness allowed him to do it. With a year in Berkeley and one in Harvard, he had the qualifications to start teaching development economics at the London School of Economics, simultaneously writing his thesis and getting his PhD from Harvard a little later. He taught at LSE, Sussex, and Oxford, and had years off working with the British aid programme on and in India; with the World Bank; and the staff of the Brandt Commission, the ‘Independent Commission on International Development Issues’. His academic best-seller was Does Aid Work?, written with a team of fellow economists. It was translated into several languages, and led to work with various development agencies. Years later he switched to education research. His last book, co-authored with two other researchers, was published in 2015, a research review mainly about England – Making a Difference in Education: What the evidence says. It taught him how small a part evidence plays in the making of English educational policy. Most recently he moved sideways again, working with a young choirmaster to produce a website about Renaissance Sacred Music, www.golden-age-music.com – launched in the summer of 2018. He says he owes so much to Harkness: his Fellowship opened the door to a life combining academe and practical involvement in the developing world. If there is anyone still around from the era of the Foundation that changed his life, he’d like to say a big Thank you.  
Published on: 18th November 2018

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Timothy Hornsby (HF 1961-63) CBE went straight from Oxford to his Harkness Fellowship in 1961, at Columbia, Harvard, and the Henry E Huntington Library in California , studying 17th-century political theory. His fellowship was extended for a further year, to enable him to take up a post as Assistant Professor of History at Birmingham Southern College. On his return, he returned to his old college at Oxford, Christ Church, as a Research Fellow and Tutor, and then joined the Civil Service where he held a number of senior posts in HM Treasury and the Department of Environment. Subsequently he became Director General of the Nature Conservancy Council, Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Kingston, and Chief Executive of the National Lottery Charities Board. He now chairs two Boards, and is a non-executive director on four others, concerned with the arts, health care, and helping those at disadvantage.
Published on: 25th May 2018

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Sir Alan Bailey (HF 1963-64) was working in the Treasury when he applied for a Harkness fellowship in 1963. He had recently been private secretary to Edward Boyle, who had meanwhile left politics and become chair of the Harkness selection board – indeed he knew that his chosen topic, how the American government employed its economists, was one of Edward Boyle’s interests, so that his success may have looked a bit like favouritism. He spent a fascinating year at Harvard and touring the whole United States (with his wife and two small children) – but worked quite hard on his report, which circulated for a time among top Treasury officials. On his return the old-style (pre-Fulton) ‘generalist’ Treasury put him in a pay division “for the good of his soul”, but he was able to use his exposure to early microeconomic theory and cost-benefit analysis in later Treasury postings, and finally as Permanent Secretary in the Department of Transport. He was awarded the KCB for his services in 1986. Since retiring in 1991 he has found various interesting part-time roles, as a non-executive Board member of London Transport and chair of London Transport Buses, and in voluntary organisations including locally in Greenwich, as well as chairing the Harkness Fellows Association in its early years.
Published on: 25th May 2018

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Baroness Patricia Hollis (HF 1963-64 ) (1941 to 2018) found that the Harkness Fellowship turned her life around. As her parents had both left school aged 12, she applied to Cambridge (UK) because she had heard of it, along with Oxford and LSE (as a trade unionist, her Dad had heard of Harold Laski!). Patricia got a First in history in 1962, and then a Harkness Fellowship to Berkeley, California to study sociology. Her newly acquired American boyfriend was active in the civil rights movement. They rode buses, picketed segregated restaurants (George Wallace, Alabama, “Turkey dinners 99c and guaranteed no n—–rs.”), and worked on voter registration in Mississippi. She heard Martin Luther King have a dream. After a second year at Columbia, New York, she came back to Nuffield College, Oxford to complete a D.Phil; which (along with her Harkness Fellow late husband, Martin) took them on to jobs at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, in 1967. In 1968 Patricia was elected to the local Council. She went on to become Dean of the School of English and American Studies as well as leader of Norwich City Council in the 1980s. She also served on the Regional health Authority, on English Heritage, the Press Council and as Chair of a local housing association. She is renowned as a successful campaigning politician who did her home work, used statistics to support her case and spoke common sense powerfully.  In 1990 she was appointed to the Lords, and from 1997-2005 was Blair’s Lord’s Minister for DSS/DWP. Patricia is survived by two sons, a radio producer for Radio 4 (ex Fulbright); and the current Faber Poetry editor. (Story initially written by Patricia and later updated)  
Published on: 25th May 2018

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Roy Williams (HF 1963-64) CB graduated in 1956 with a degree in economics from Liverpool University and was successful in the Civil Service Administrative Class competition in the same year. He joined the then Ministry of Power and served in Divisions responsible for different nationalised industries. He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship in 1963 which he spent at the University of Chicago and later University of California (Berkeley) researching the American approach to regulating public utilities. In the US these are mostly privately owned in contrast to the UK where at that time, they were in public ownership. On his return to the UK he served as Principal Private Secretary to successive Secretaries if State for Industry, including Tony Benn during the 1975 EEC referendum, and Eric Varley, and then headed the Division responsible for the Post Office and telecommunications. Later, as a Deputy Secretary (Director General), he was responsible for international trade policy, DTI relations with the EEC (now EU) and the creation of the EEC single market. He subsequently moved to take responsibility for industrial policy in DTI, which involved the 1980’s programme of privatising state owned industries. His time in the US studying the American regulatory approach was highly relevant at this time. His last Civil Service post gave him responsibility for regional policy, the promotion of enterprise and innovation and inward investment. He retired in 1993 from when he chaired the European Eureka programme, which is designed to encourage collaboration in R and D between European enterprises, was a member of the Design Council and a Trustee of various Charities, including chairing a charity caring for disabled children. He was made a Companion of the Bath (CB) in 1988.
Published on: 25th May 2018

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